As kids begin participating in sports at younger ages, and getting to the point of specialization — that is, focusing on one particular sport year-round — they are increasingly suffering injuries, said Haverhill chiropractor Dr. Robert Arsenault.

"When I was a kid, we played football in the fall and basketball in the winter," Arsenault said. "Now, a kid can play hockey, for example, all year round, leading to repetitive stress injuries."

About 3.5 million athletes under the age of 14 are treated annually for sports-related injuries, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Arsenault identifies two classes of injury: traumatic injuries, such as collisions in football or hockey, and stress injuries, such as tennis elbow, sprains and strains.

"Tendonitis. Overworked or overused joints," he said. "-Itis means 'swelling of.'"

Treating those injuries can take a variety of forms, including seeking treatment from physical trainers, physical therapists or chiropractors.

Chiropractors, according to Arsenault, "manipulate" joints to make certain that the particular joint injured is aligned and functioning properly, so it can heal as effectively as possible.

"It's not about getting it to heal. It's about getting it to heal properly," he said. "Is that joint functioning properly? We correct the alignment."

Haverhill High athletic trainer Andy Berube said while chiropractors deal with manipulation and alignment, trainers and physical therapists tend to deal more with torn ligaments, tendons and muscles, and focus their treatment on mobilization and retaining the pre-injury range of motion.

"If it's a soft tissue injury, like a muscle strain, we use heat and cold, sorts of electro-stimulation," Berube said. "All of those modalities are used by physical therapists, trainers and chiropractors within their setting."

While the treatments differ — from the emphasis on joint manipulation and alignment to basic mobilization — Arsenault also refers his patients to other care centers frequently.

"If there's an ACL tear, we'll say that that patient needs a surgical consult," he said. "We treat concurrently all the time," he said, adding that chiropractors have two goals when treating patients: Nervous system control and restoring the injured joint to its proper function or alignment.

"Not healing properly can lead to arthritic change in the joints," Arsenault said. "People don't just get arthritis when they're 60, 70, 80. They get it because a joint wasn't functioning properly at some earlier point in their life."

Arsenault says that participating in a variety of sports, which exercise a variety of muscles, is the best way to prevent injuries and arthritis later in life.

"(With specialization), there is a level of burnout, and that leads to fatigue, and that can lead to injury," he said. "For 9- to 13-year-olds, it would behoove them to play multiple sports. Good for the development of muscles."

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